Photoessay: Megablocks Make Up China’s Gilded Age

Recently developed areas of Beijing surrounding its former imperial core are riddled with megablocks, where huge swaths of land are handed over to developers and fashioned into towering apartment high-rises interwoven with malls and public spaces. Once built, they form distinct urban islands, bounded by grand avenues and further hemmed in by large highways that encircle Beijing. Entire districts are laid out and rebuilt in such a fashion, like cogs in a machine switched out for newer parts. This new breed of megablock destroys any sense of fluidity in Beijing. Their imposing and monotonous facades also mark an elaborate transformation of social practices that continues to occur at an alarming pace across the city. Through a juxtaposition of photographs of an idealized model of Beijing located in the Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Hall and actual urban landscapes of Beijing both built or under construction, the following section introduces how megablocks in Beijing structure new precedents for living and consumption for the rest of China. They illustrate the gap between the clean and hopeful vision of a “harmonious” Beijing found in sanctioned models and how megablocks actually shape the city on the ground.

via visions of modernity: china’s gilded age | matthew niederhauser | mdnphoto | beijing artist.